Our mortal remains: 99 Word Flash fiction

© irene waters 2015

© irene waters 2015

Death and dying seems to have been a bit of a topic this week for me. Firstly I went to the conference on death, dying and the undead. That generated a few conversations. I recounted how I wanted my mortal remains dealt with when I was in my twenties and possibly even into my early thirties. At that stage we had oodles of fish tanks. More than one in each room and eventually the garage and outdoor shed were also lined with tanks. We liked a species of fish (cichlids) that if you put different varieties together they ended up fighting it out to the death. Naturally we were unaware of this early in the piece buying many varieties and putting them together when they were young and small. As they grew so did the aggression and we couldn’t bear to see the weaker fish being pecked to pieces — hence all the tanks.

My ideal burial at that time was that I be placed in a six-foot tank filled with formalin in the lounge room so that I could remain a part of things. A silent omnipresent being. My ex husband didn’t seem to mind but Roger told me under no circumstances would he have me floating so. I had to make a choice of a conventional style arrangement.

Often people find discussing these matters so difficult that they never do. Such was the case with my girlfriend whose husband died recently. She didn’t know what he wanted and it has been such a difficult decision for her to decide where she should bury him. We think she made the right choice by taking him home to his beloved home country where he is now in the family grave with his mother but I know over time she and her girls will probably wish he was still in Australia and wonder where he would have liked to be – near them or his parents.

For others they decide to prepare for their own demise:

Bury Me

The diagnosis hit like a sixty-pound sledge-hammer.

“We can’t tell you how long. The cancer’s very close to the artery. It’s a matter of when it erodes through. It could be a matter of days or a few months. Sorry but not long.” 

Stanley made the phone calls. Friends rallied from near and far for a last weekend together. 

“Bury me, don’t burn me.”  Stanley said.

We headed to the cemetery  and found a peaceful plot overlooking the sea.  “I’ll be happy here. I always did feel comfortable underground.”

“Mining Engineer was a good career choice then.”

And sometimes when you prepare you find the days, weeks, months turn happily to years. New treatments are being discovered all the time. I know the real Stanley sees each new day as a gift of time. The trial drug seems to have stopped it dead in its tracks. For how long no-one knows but he rests easy knowing his arrangements are in place for his final resting place.

This post is in response to Charli’s prompt where she asks:

October 21, 2015 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about a final resting place. You can take any perspective that appeals to you from the historic to the horrific. Just don’t scare me too greatly. You can also choose to write about those buried before they came to their final rest. An extra challenge is to discover a story or character from a local cemetery. I double-dog dare you to join me with your own cemetery day!

Respond by October 27, 2015 to be included in the weekly compilation. Rules are here. All writers are welcome!

About Irene Waters 19 Writer Memoirist

I began my working career as a reluctant potato peeler whilst waiting to commence my training as a student nurse. On completion I worked mainly in intensive care/coronary care; finishing my hospital career as clinical nurse educator in intensive care. A life changing period as a resort owner/manager on the island of Tanna in Vanuatu was followed by recovery time as a farmer at Bucca Wauka. Having discovered I was no farmer and vowing never again to own an animal bigger than myself I took on the Barrington General Store. Here we also ran a five star restaurant. Working the shop of a day 7am - 6pm followed by the restaurant until late was surprisingly more stressful than Tanna. On the sale we decided to retire and renovate our house with the help of a builder friend. Now believing we knew everything about building we set to constructing our own house. Just finished a coal mine decided to set up in our backyard. Definitely time to retire we moved to Queensland. I had been writing a manuscript for some time. In the desire to complete this I enrolled in a post grad certificate in creative Industries which I completed 2013. I followed this by doing a Master of Arts by research graduating in 2017. Now I live to write and write to live.
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28 Responses to Our mortal remains: 99 Word Flash fiction

  1. Norah says:

    I wish the real Stanley many happy extensions to those days, months and years. What a wonderful way to honour him in a flash. I think it is a great thing to have your wishes known. It is important to plan and discuss. We never know the time or place. I have a few ideas and have started to jot them down. I should add a few more. A year or two ago I saw a great TED talk about what I’ll refer to as mushroom garments as I can’t recall the proper term. They are burial garments which encourage the growth of fungi and totally decompose the body. I’m not explaining that well but I thought that was great. I also like the idea of cardboard coffins that are also more eco friendly. I always liked the Dying Stockman song: Wrap me up with my stockwhip and blanket and bury me deep down below, where the dingoes and crows won’t molest me …(or something!) Anyway. Seemingly morbid but important thoughts. Thanks for the prompt. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes I like the idea of fungi attracting garments, I hadn’t heard of them. I like the idea of being compost although I have been told we don’t add a lot to the soil. There is a burial ground in a forest around Byron Bay where you can be buried. The plots are well removed from each other (I guess it is fairly new and overcrowding hasn’t yet happened.) I think council operate it and the relatives are given GPS coordinates in order to find their loved ones if they wish to make visits in the future. Mum has asked for a cardboard coffin when she goes.I don’t know that song but just looked it up. You’re memory is pretty good
      Wrap me up with my stockwhip and blanket
      And bury me deep down below
      Where the dingoes and crows can’t molest me
      In the shade where the coolibahs grow
      Slim Dusty sang it but the lyrics are much older than him.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Norah says:

        I saw an article about the cardboard coffins in the paper a while back but they weren’t legal/available at that time in Queensland. Byron Bay seems the place for something like that to begin.
        Thanks for checking the words of the song. I should have done that. Should have also checked out the TED talk – shouldn’t let time restraints impede me, and shouldn’t should on myself so much! 🙂
        Here’s a link to the TED talk.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I don’t know that Mum knows that about the coffins. You could get them in NSW when we left. She has been in her planning stages since the doctor told her in 2006 that she probably wouldn’t see that Christmas. In the States you can hire coffins but I don’t know that that is available here either.
        It was one I hadn’t heard so I thought I’d see who wrote it. I thought it may have been by one of the great Australian poets but it appears to be annonymous and possibly always a song made famous by Slim Dusty. You shouldn’t beat up on yourself so much – when you try and do too much you just get stressed and it isn’t worth it.
        I haven’t as yet watched the TED talk but will tonight. Thanks for putting in the link.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Norah says:

        Hire a coffin!!!! I wonder how that works. If you don’t like it, can you send it back?
        I’m pleased for you and your Mum that the doctors were wrong. You’ve had her for a good few more years than expected. 🙂
        I hope you enjoy the TED talk as much as I did.

        Liked by 1 person

      • That was a great TED talk. I want a mushroom death suit and I want to become a decompinaut. (A bit like being an argonaut from our youth.) It proved to me that cremating is definitely not the way to go. I don’t know though how the infinity mushrooms were going to deal with the toxins already in her — presuming that we are then going to eat those same mushrooms. I may have missed something there.
        Hire a coffin – I think that is so that you have the expensive version at the funeral and then a cheap pine box as your final home. I think that is a matter of saving relatives costs rather than for an environmental advantage — although I guess the cheap one could be plantation timber.
        Yes very glad we have had her longer and hopefully for longer yet.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Norah says:

        I must watch the video again myself. I’ve forgotten the details but thought it was a pretty awesome idea when I heard it first.
        Okay I could see how that hire system would work, but am not sure of the purpose. I want the cheapest most environmentally friendly version available. But not yet! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s so important to plan your own burial for after your death. Leaving those arrangements to others is so unkind an act to impose on people already grieving.
    Having just written that, have I made my arrangements? I’ll leave you to guess. 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’m guessing you haven’t. Nor have I but we have had the conversation and Roger knows what I want and songs I want played etc. Whether he remembers at that time I won’t know. My Mum is very organised having written her own service, organised a minister (if he hasn’t gone before her) and left instructions galore including paper notifications etc. I think she is going to outlive those that she has instructed. I have always felt that she probably has gone to that much detail because she comes from an age where things have to be done correctly. She knows that I rarely do that and she doesn’t trust me to do it on her demise. LOL

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Norah says:

    I see you have changed your profile photo. Very nice. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thank you, Norah, for providing the TED Talk link that Jae Rhim Lee presented.
    Implied in her talk is the idea that what we should leave behind is the work we created when we were alive, not a body leeching toxins into the atmosphere. I admire her approach. Much to think about here.
    Irene, I guess you can see the formalin tank is not a great idea.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. jeanne229 says:

    Very thought-provoking and timely. My husband hates to talk about our final arrangements. For me, though we can perhaps expect another decade or two or three, I think it would be comforting to have these issues settled. And what a beautiful choice of a final resting place Stanley made. Loved that little twist at the end too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Jeanne. Death for some is very confronting. My friend who hadn’t discussed it with her husband has great difficulty with it. Even though her husband had severe problems to the point where she could no longer look after him at home, it came as a total shock to her that he died. No-one had told her he was that sick. Personally I am a realist and know that one day it will happen and it is best to be prepared.
      Great site and glad you enjoyed the twist.


  6. A fish tank?! Irene! O_o Well, I have heard of becoming part of the Great Barrier Reef and for many years (late teens/early twenties) I wanted to do that. I’m actually not even sure if that’s possible. Great flash. Love the last line. Packs a giggle and a punch. Well done.


  7. Charli Mills says:

    Given my forays into cemeteries, the Hub and I have often discussed final resting places. We even joke that if I die before he does, he has to give my eulogy in his “Monster Truck” voice. It’s his scary deep voice as the character “Grave Digger” from mudding truck competitions which, ironically, neither of us watch but both know the voice of the sport. He follows me around the grocery store talking like that! Great post and a good discussion everyone should have. Nothing is worse than burying a loved one without a clue as to what they would have wanted.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: Rest Your Weary Bones « Carrot Ranch Communications

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